Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chapter 9: Disaster Averted

The next morning I awoke with what one might charitably call a pressing need. Alas, the Cheese Factory Site, despite having ample flat ground for tenting and a crystalline water supply, was not equipped with a privy. Furthermore, unlike Shorts, I was neither physically nor mentally prepared to dig a cathole. I had so far avoided needing to do so on the trail, and found the mere idea of it disgusting and degrading, too potentially humiliating to be worth the bother. Yes, I was somehow more comfortable risking soiling my pants running the two miles to the next shelter, up and over a four thousand foot mountain, with my butt cheeks clenched together, than I was with the idea of digging a hole in the middle of the woods for the purposes of discarding my own waste.

It was foggy and misting as I neared Tray Gap, where a US Forest Service road intersected the trail. I was alarmed to see two men seemingly waiting for me there, standing as they were beside a hulking pickup truck. I had heard rumors of locals making sport of harassing hikers, and so expected the worst. I approached the men warily, trying to imagine what they could possibly want. I could only hope that, whatever their sinister intentions, they wouldn't delay me for long. My bowels were in an uproar.

To my astonishment, the men politely asked me if I wanted a hamburger, and urged me to have a seat and relax while they cooked. They had pulled a grill from the back of their truck, and seemed to be making ready to have an all-day barbecue beside the trail. I found this extremely odd and yet somehow intriguing. However, being a staunch, life-long vegetarian, the lure of hamburgers at nine o'clock in the morning was not very strong. I politely declined, and excused myself with the quite honest assertion that I was, after all, rather in a hurry to find a toilet.

I am not sure they thought much of my explanation. Jason would tell me later that when he met the two men they were still laughing about some poor guy who ran off in desperate need of a bathroom. I didn't care. They could laugh all they want, I was just relieved to make it to the next shelter.

The Tray Mountain Shelter was some ways off the trail, and many of the people there were still in camp or just rousing from their slumber when I arrived. I may have made somewhat of a spectacle of myself, waddling as fast as I could towards the privy, grunting incomprehensibly, hands firmly clamped around my buttocks. Gloriously, the privy was unoccupied, and I emerged a short time later feeling a thousand times better and in awe of the copious efficiency of my digestive tract. I brushed off my earlier humiliations. All was forgiven.

I had made it there safely. That was all that mattered.

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